It's one of your basic human instincts: When confronted with a miracle, keep your mouth shut and climb aboard.

I was in Herat, Afghanistan. I was staying in a structure I remember as the Hotel Mud. In times of greater content and vitamin sufficiency, the Hotel Mud would have glowed with the adobe glamor of camel trains and the wily Pathan, but as it was, I was in that particularly desperate and bottomed-out state in which you find yourself interned after too many Asian countries on too little money, sleeping on the floors of third-class Indian trains, trudging around in search of another dysentery remedy, wondering if you have hepatitis. I wanted to go home.

There were lots of us in Herat, stranded in the same state, both geographically and psychologically. We all wanted to go home. We all knew the only way to get there was across a no-man's land to Iran, crossed only by jeeps for hire. The jeeps were infamous. The Afghani drivers could pack 18 people into them, sitting two and three deep, always with the prettiest Western woman reserved for his lap. The trip was said to take five or six hours, as I recall, and you had to wait days for one to leave. There was no other way. I'd already spent a whole day establishing that.

So one morning, I found myself climbing into a jeep in the courtyard of the Hotel Mud with about a platoon of other wasted Westerners -- failed dope smugglers, ex-devotees of gurus who hadn't panned out and so on, all somehow psychically rigid and flaccid at the same time, beyond conversation or even those instant friendships which are one of the recompenses of traveling as a Westerner in a country like Afghanistan.

The driver got us all packed in, closed the doors and then wandered off to chat with some other Afghani. They talked, they laughed, we waited. Finally, we started getting out of the jeep. It seemed silly to wait inside. The driver strutted over, flicking the back of his hand at us: Get back in, he was saying.

We did.

He went back to socializing.

We honked his horn at him. He came back raging as if we'd just spray-painted our initials on the local mosque.

We complained. He threatened and cursed. We had no choice, he made it clear.

We waited, sitting on each other's laps, in the canvas gloom of that jeep.

Then somebody started honking the horn again, and the driver staged another one of his fits, and, in my peculiar condition I, well, snapped.

As I remember, the driver was standing by the front of the jeep scolding the horn-honker when I piled out of the back of it in the feral rush I always associate with Marine Corps drill instructors. I was yelling before my feet hit the ground, and I was yelling as I came up toe to toe with the driver -- yelling at his face as if it were on fire and I were trying to put it out with sonic booms. I was not demanding that he leave that instant, I was telling him that neither I nor any of my fellow travelers was going to ride with him, the hell with him, with his mother and his whole corrupt family, his friends, his dubious sexual orientation, and exotic appetites -- DOYOUUNDERSTANDME, DOYOU, DOYOU, DOYOU?

He did. Galvanized out of a hashish smog for the first time in months, the other passengers followed me out of the courtyard of the Hotel Mud, a little army for a splendid, principled moment that ended when they began to realize I had ruined any chance any of them ever had of getting out of Herat.

A terror of gloom came over me. There were no other jeeps, no other drivers. We were stuck. The grumbling grew louder behind me, the ugly grinding noise of a mob due any moment to start looking for a rope.

Then: It was blue, as I remember it, a heavenly blue, and it didn't exist, I already knew that, but I didn't even have to hail it, it just stopped in front of me -- an old American truck with a homemade tin roof like a school bus, and actual seats.

"Where you go?" said the driver.

"Iran," I said, quoting a price far less than the jeep driver's.

"Okay," the man in the blue bus said.

We all got on, we rode to Iran, nobody had to sit on the driver's lap, and nobody said anything about the coincidence of that bus that nobody had ever heard of showing up in Herat at that minute of that morning in Herat. Nobody thanked me, either, but then, when wrath invokes a miracle, what more satisfaction do you need?